• Olly Jordan

Chapter 47 - Once Upon a Dream - The True Main Quest - Uni 3rd Year 2017/18

Updated: Jun 2, 2020


How did I end up with this book cover design in the space of 9 day? Below I will discuss the development of how I changed concept so quickly and managed to come up with a piece that is more fitting with my portfolio.

NEW Concept - Aurora's Crown

I quickly managed to come up with a new concept that is not too far from what I was saying with the portrait. Still using the idea of Aurora being on the front cover and the green mark making symbolising Maleficent’s Sleeping Curse, I thought I could use Aurora’s crown as the subject matter rather than Aurora herself. Using her crown would be a symbolic representation of Aurora rather than a literal one like I had been doing with the portrait, however, Aurora is an animated character who doesn’t have much detail in her crown to work with in order for me to make a realistic painting of her crown.

Aurora is however one of the princesses that appears in DisneyLand, and so there is a real-life adaptation of the crown which I could also use for inspiration that you can see below.

The main distinguishable features about Aurora’s crown is the almost triangular shape and the coloured gemstones on it. I obviously can not work from the DisneyLand version of the crown because I do not have the right to work from it, but it also is not very shiny or impressive to be honest, it suits its purpose on DisneyLand, but would surely not be detailed enough for an actual princess if Aurora was real.

I found a potential crown that could work nicely as a live action Aurora crown. The leafy details could link nicely with the thorns, vines and forest associated with the Sleeping Beauty story. I just needed to photoshop the crowns shape and colours so that I am not only making my own version of the crown so I wasn't breaching copyright issues, but also so that the shape of the crown is similar to the animated Aurora’s one.

Here is a new edit based on the above crown, I have elongated the crown, made the colours more of a golden colour, made the main feature gemstones pink so they link with the colour associated with Aurora, and most importantly, reshaped the crown so it is similar to the animated Aurora’s crown.

Using my painting of the Spinning Wheel as a guide of how the crown could work with the green mark making, I mocked up a quick design for my book cover. I went back to the idea of having the blurb, titles and other design features like that, rather than having a folio society style cover where the artwork speaks for itself, because I do not have a strong enough artwork concept now to spread over the front and back. I also think that if I am interested in more of a design route as a career, it would be good to apply text and layout constraints to my artwork to show I can work with such design constraints. I am planning on just having green mark making on the back cover to be symbolic of Maleficent’s smoke that you often see within the Sleeping Beauty film and also obviously tie in with the front cover.

On the left is a new crown that I have found and on the right is my edit. The previous crown I had been using just was not royal enough, I think that this crown is detailed enough and would suit a princess nicely because of that. With my edit, I have obviously reshaped he crown to be like the Disney one, but I have also coloured some of the gems to be like her crown too with the blues and greens. Aurora’s crown does have the colour red within it, but I thought that a purple/pink would work in a more effective way because that is the colour most people associate with Disney’s Aurora as she wears a pink dress. Although, yes, this is an alternate version from the film and most of my research shows that she does not wear that pink dress for most of the book and it is infact gold, that doesn’t mean I can not play on the connection to the film and how it is a different telling of the story.


I have edited my spinning wheel, from my initial concept of using the portrait of Aurora, onto a black background just as a way of testing that this process can actually work on a black background and it works a lot more effectively than I anticipated. The use of the black instantly conveys the darker tone of the book and the green mark making is very reminiscent of Maleficent’s smoke. The green stands out really nicely and with the wash behind, there is an idea of depth, the splats and dribbles help to give distortion and a sense of urgency to the work due to the nature of the splats and the fact they are wet.

Painting Aurora's Crown


Here is my painting of the crown, luckily it only took around 12 hours to paint, so this is a quick solution to my book cover design. The gold mark making around the edges of the crown was not intentional, but I thought about the future and how I could use the artwork and sell art prints of the work. I do not think that green would have worked as nicely as the mark making as it would be quite a random colour choice there. The gold mark making here helps to give the idea that the crown is beginning to abstract itself, which is not only what I wanted for the book cover design, but is also a nice thing to see for art prints and fits with my portfolio nicely.

I think I made the right decision of dropping the portrait I had been working on and painting this as the quality is clearly a lot higher. The crown painting was the break from portraits that I needed. The standard and realism within the painting is still very high and in keeping with my portfolio of 2018 and helps to show that I can paint more than people. I do have some objects within my portfolio: Belle Perfume Bottle, The Enchanted Rose, but none have worked with such a shiny subject matter. The bottle showed I can work with glass and the abstraction of mark making needed there. This painting of the crown fits in nicely with my series of objects within my portfolio also because of the use of expressive mark making behind it, all of the them have a splatty brush stroke background to them.

Book Cover Design Development

Here I pretty much got my front cover and spine all designed and finalised. The golden mark making from the crown was edited to a green colour to help blend with the rest of the mark making. I used three different layers of my mark making experiments to create the green on the front cover, each layer with a different opacity level to make it look like it was actually painted on black. I also added a gold foil texture to my title and strapline on the front cover, I was planning on making a physical mock-up of the book and foiling it myself, but with just 5 days left until the deadline and running low on money, a digital mock-up will do the same job.


The font has been changed to Baskerville for the blurb, author name and strapline because that is a font commonly used with book cover design due to its legibility.


I also added my painting of the Spinning Wheel as an icon on the side of the book. I thought it would be a shame to not use it within the final artwork, seeing as it was so successful and inspired this different style direction I have gone for. The Spinning Wheel works nicely as the book's icon and it is instantly connectable with the story of the Sleeping Beauty - the green for Maleficent and the spinning wheel for the curse Aurora had been given since a baby of pricking her finger on one in her 16th birthday and then falling to an eternal slumber. All I had left to do is the back cover and make a digital mock up of the book.

The crown sits very nicely on the cover, I did think that it may appear lost as it is quite a skinny subject matter, but is does hold itself nicely. The brighter green almost gives the impression that the crown is being pulled through a portal of green causing it to abstract. This is not a bad idea that has accidentally happened, the green represents Maleficent’s curse which Aurora is under for almost all of the book, the realism vs abstraction is what I wanted to go for with everything being not quite right within the dream world.


Designing the Back Cover


Within these back cover designs, I went back to some of my ideas from previous designs. I wanted to include green mark making, much like what is happening in the front cover, but to create a border around the blurb in an abstract way, almost as though it is Maleficent’s green smoke closing in on the blurb. I added some of the recognisable symbols from the film that would instantly make that connection for people who pick up the book, as previously intended with other thumbnails. If I were to have them as silhouettes rather than full colour artworks, that would not make the back of the book look to cluttered or hard to read. I would like to keep the three colours balls - the fairies, in colour as they are known for their glowing colours around them when they fly.

I painted some green backgrounds and the symbols I would like on seperate layers. Painting them on seperate layers would allow me to create layers on photoshop like how I did when I created the front cover with different levels of opacity. The spinning wheel and Phillip’s shield have been painted in quite a sketchy way, this is to help tie in with the spinning wheel painting I have on the spine of the book but to also tie in to the idea of abstraction of reality.

These are just a few more screenshots showing how I put the artwork from the sketches above onto my back cover design on photoshop - playing around with layer opacity and type eg. multiply, screen, darken.

The Final Artwork

Here is my final artwork for the book cover. I think that the green swirling border around the blurb has some real motion and you can see it moving its way around and growing, especially on the right hand side where the colour isn't as dark. The abstracted silhouettes work nicely and do not distract from the blurb of the book while still being able to call a nostalgic feel to the film, especially with the glowing paint splats to resemble the three good fairies.


I was surprised at how quick this artwork created itself and I definitely made the right decision in dropping the portrait idea as it was not going well and that would have shown in the final artwork. This showed me that I can actually create a quick outcome if I need to, as long as there is an object or something small as main subject matter that is realistic and everything else is abstracted. Abstraction vs realism is definitely a style I should continue to explore in my career. I do not think that this final artwork is very inspired by Dimitra Milan as intended at the beginning of the project, but it has changed a lot for the better. That idea helped inspire an initial direction, but with the time I had, it was too ambitious to try and take on a new style.

Using an online downloadable template, I edited my design onto a book cover. I chose a nature/forest setting for the background as that would help tie in with some of the settings within the book of Aurora and Phillip in the forest. Choosing a photo like this instantly tells the reader what some of the themes will be, I also put the book in a studio lighting setting as that would be more appropriate for a portfolio due to its focus purely on the book.

Acknowledgment from Author of Once Upon a Dream

One really nice way to end the project was to have the author of the book I based my project on like and comment on my design. She comments on how 'GORGEOUS' the cover is. I know it is just a like and comment, but it was such a comforting way to end a project that really went on such a roller coaster, but in the end it turned out good and the person who knows the book the most of all liked how I interpreted their book!

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